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Reynolds breaks own strikeout record in midst of excellent season

Sep 23, 2009, 2:48 PM EDT

Mark Reynolds broke his own single-season strikeout record last night by whiffing for the 205th (and 206th) time and … well, no one seems to care all that much. Which is a good thing.
Not so long ago a player even approaching the strikeout record was viewed as a big deal that usually drew all sorts of heavy-handed criticism from columnists and talking heads, but whether because the baseball media has evolved or someone breaking his own record simply isn’t much of a story the hand-wringing over Reynolds has been minimal.
Last week, while writing about why the focus on hitter strikeouts is largely misguided, I noted that the 10 guys who’ve struck out most often this season have been significantly more productive hitters than the 10 guys who’ve struck out least often. Along those same lines, the 10 highest single-season strikeout totals have all come from very productive hitters:

                    YEAR      SO      AVG     HR     RBI      OPS
Mark Reynolds       2009     206     .266     43     100     .919
Mark Reynolds       2008     204     .239     28      97     .779
Ryan Howard         2007     199     .268     47     136     .976
Ryan Howard         2008     199     .251     48     146     .881
Jack Cust           2008     197     .231     33      77     .851
Adam Dunn           2004     195     .266     46     102     .956
Adam Dunn           2006     194     .234     40      92     .855
Bobby Bonds         1970     189     .302     26      78     .879
Jose Hernandez      2002     188     .288     24      73     .834
Bobby Bonds         1969     187     .259     32      90     .824
Preston Wilson      2000     187     .264     31     121     .817

It’s very difficult to post a high batting average while striking out 180-200 times in a season, but batting average doesn’t equal production and the seasons shown on the above list have averaged 36 homers and 101 RBIs with an .870 OPS. Reynolds is having a fantastic offensive season, just as guys like Ryan Howard and Adam Dunn and Bobby Bonds did before him, and anyone unwilling to see that is missing the forest through the trees.
There are some situations where a strikeout is worse than other types of outs. For example, with a runner on third base and less than two outs, hitting a sacrifice fly out has more value than striking out. However, there are also some situations where a strikeout is better than other types of outs. For example, with a runner on first base and less than two outs, striking out is more valuable than grounding into a double play (which Reynolds has done just eight times this year compared to 29 for high-contact hitter Miguel Tejada).
Add up all of those different situations and at the end of the day a strikeout is no worse than flying out or grounding out, even if a certain segment of the baseball-watching public refuses to believe it. Striking out has the added bonus of typically coming with lots of homers and walks, and unlike the difference between types of outs those things actually have a huge impact on scoring runs.

  1. Tom - Sep 23, 2009 at 3:15 PM

    Interesting that you mention a runner on 3rd with less than two outs as Reynolds has been absolutely horrible in those situations: 1-25 with the only hit being a single. He has 12 RBI in those situations but most must have come in groundouts as he only has 1 SacFly. He strikes out less in those situation than normally, so it looks like he changes his approach with negative effects.

  2. Grant - Sep 23, 2009 at 3:56 PM

    Other than because Henry Chadwick or whoever says so, how is a groundout resulting in a run scoring different than a flyout resulting in a run scoring?

    But otherwise, yeah, 1/25 isn’t so good, though i doubt it’s a significant sample.

  3. Joey B - Sep 23, 2009 at 4:31 PM

    That’s a bad way to do a study. Very few sluggers can get to those K totals without a full season worth of ABs. They wouldn’t get a full season’s worth of ABs without being a good hitter.
    Strikeouts are bad, but because you’ve chosen only successful hitters, it looks better than it is.
    If you took a look at Saltalamacchia, Shoppach, Wily Mo Pena, and many, many others, you’d see that the players that strike out a lot are bad players. But you won’t see them with 200 Ks, because they are bad players.

  4. David M - Sep 24, 2009 at 9:05 AM

    Going along with Joey B, Emilio Bonifacio was near the top of the strikeout list when he was playing full time, and he was anything but productive. Most players who strike out a lot get benched, very few come up with average to above average seasons despite their inability to make contact. (It also helps that Reynolds BABIP is near .350. If that ever comes down to the average MLB BABIP, his .260s average will be even lower.)

  5. Will - Sep 27, 2009 at 8:11 PM

    Gleemans not saying that the hitters are productive because they strike out, he’s just saying that strikeouts don’t keep them from being productive hitters, as one might assume from the way the strikeout record has been treated by the MSM

  6. Jama Curreri - Feb 4, 2010 at 11:27 PM

    How complete are public records that you get on the Internet? How do you really know if you are getting what you need.

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